The 550 Spyder put Porsche firmly on the map as a serious competitor on the world’s racing tracks; indeed, the diminutive mid-engined roadster generated the nickname ‘Giant Killer’ for its ability to defeat much more powerful rivals. Introduced at the 1953 Paris Auto Show, the 550 and its second iteration, the 550A, remained in production through February of 1959, and a total of 130 chassis were constructed before the 718 RSK Spyders appeared. A large proportion of 550 production was destined for the United States.
Built on a frame of seamless mild steel tubing, the 550 utilised a front suspension of double trailing arms and transverse-leaf torsion bars. After the first few examples, the rear suspension was redesigned from leading control arms to trailing arms with swing axles and tubular transverse torsion bars. Porsche’s engineers had planned an all-new engine to power the Spyder at the gruelling Carrera Panamericana, but early testing determined that Dr Ernst Fuhrmann’s Type 547 advanced 1.5-litre air-cooled four- cylinder Boxer engine was not quite ready. Thus, the first few chassis were fitted with conventional pushrod Porsche engines. Soon, however, reliability was ensured and the new ‘Four-Cam’ would be installed in all the 550s, 550As, RSKs, 356 Carreras, and 904s that were to follow.
This marvellous but complex engine, called the ‘Drawer motor’ because its engineering drawings were quickly hidden in Fuhrmann’s desk whenever Dr Porsche walked into his office, was an all-alloy unit displacing 1,498 cubic centimetres. Its camshafts were driven off the Hirth-patent built-up roller-bearing crankshaft by a series of shafts and crown wheels. Cam timing took dozens of man-hours to properly establish, but once all the clearances were correctly set, the high- revving motor was very reliable. It featured dry-sump lubrication and two spark plugs per cylinder. With compression of 9.5:1 and breathing through a pair of Weber downdraft carburettors, this engine produced a strong 110 brake horsepower. In a chassis that weighed barely 590 kilograms, 550s were capable of top speeds approaching 210 km/h (140 mph), dependent on gearing. Because these little roadsters were ostensibly required to be street driven, they were fitted with a token canvas tonneau that met the letter of the rulebook but were otherwise better left folded away in the garage.
„Combining as it does terrific performance, faultless handling, and excellent brakes, it is no wonder that the Porsche 550 Spyder . . . is the car to beat. . .“
– Road and Track magazine, February 1957 issue –
The Porsche 550 Spyder we are offering here is chassis 550-0050 and is one of only 97 examples. The car was completed on the 28th June 1955 and was delivered new to the US west coast with the updated body design. It was originally finished in silver with black interior. Its original engine carried #P90046. 550-0050 was first owned by Jim Cook who raced the car alongside with C. Pitt Browne until 1965 (detailed racing history hereinafter). By the mid-80s 550-0050 was owned by Frank C. Cook of Las Vegas who later on sold it to European Auto Sales Los Angeles. Multiple correspondence letters of that time are available in the dossier.
By the late 80s, and on the behalf of Japanese client Mr. Yoshida, it was decided to embark 550-0050 into a ground up, regardless-of- cost restoration. The full original restoration dossier which comprises hundreds of photographs and correspondence letters will be supplied with the car. The attention given to detail during the restoration process is like we have rarely ever seen before and must be read through to be appreciated. By the late 90s french based dealer Benoit Couturier purchased 550-0050 sold it shortly after to famous Porsche collector and enthusiast Claude Picasso, son of Pablo Picasso. Claude Picasso participated once to the Targa Florio historic race and the first Le Mans Classic edition. Soon after the 550 Spyder was purchased by classic car enthusiast and collector Jean Guittard who only kept 550-0050 8 months. He later sold it to famous french singer Florent Pagny.
By mid-2005 the car was auctioned in Paris and purchased by Ladurée CEO David Holder who remained the owner until the late 2000s. Subsequently the car was sold to its current owner in 2008. The 550-0050 was used very little since and almost never shown in public. Offered in very good condition throughout and ready to be enjoyed for some of the most prestigious historic events worldwide, this 50’s Porsche icon would enhance any significant collection.
German road registered
550-0050 race history
-26th February 1956, Mansfield Airport, Louisiana, James Cook. 1st
-5th August 1956, Mansfield Airport, Louisiana, C. Pitt Browne Jr.
-13th October 195-, Hammond GP, Louisiana, C. Pitt Browne Jr.
-15th May 1960, Great Western Rallye, James Cook / Jack Ryan, 4th
-21st August 1960, Bonneville Nationals, C. Pitt Browne Jr., 1st
-4th July 1965, GP Golden State, James Cook, 4th